‘We were a community with no name so I named us! If we could pull together as a community maybe we could fight the eviction notice’
30+ years on and Rim Khlong Wat Saphan Community is still here largely thanks to the tireless efforts of 65 year old Kru Jamnian. At the age of 20 she moved with her family to Klong Toey. The swampland around the Port was already crowded with the wooden houses of workers and this family was just one of many flocking to the city for work. Kru Jamnian began a school in her home which, at its height, provided education for 100 children! She has rallied her neighbours to fight many eviction attempts and today provides a ‘first port of call’ clinic for medical emergencies. As I sit on her doorstep listening (slightly in awe!) to the stories that have shaped this place we plan to move to, I am grateful for the victories of the past but sense this is a neighbourhood struggling to cling on to hope.
To enter the community you walk past what locals call ‘the big houses’ (a recent slum relocation project layed out on a grid), and then duck down into a maze of narrow walkways sloping towards the murky waters of the khlong. Many of the homes here are abandoned and gradually disapearing back into the swamp. It is a forgotten corner of a forgotten town. But how much life we see here also! As Jon has worked DIY magic at the new house, neighbours have brought him ice and drinks, lent fans and tools. We share the vision of community that has driven Kru Jamnian and others who have high hopes for Klong Toey. Add Jesus and his kingdom principles into the mix and a beautiful picture emerges!
We recently spent time as a team reflecting on what the Beatitudes of Jesus mean for our context. We began to write our own blessings over our neighbours, pouring out deep desires for justice, transformation and opportunity. These have become a focal point when we lose sight of why Jesus would have us here. What may start as dreaming is worth working and praying towards! A new video reading of these Klong Toey Beatitudes as well as an interview with our teammates Chris and Jodie MacCartney can be viewed at the end of this post.
This month has been dominated by language learning as we’ve completed our second reading and writing module. It has been quite frustrating as it is not so immediately useful as the conversation modules were and has heaps of homework! However it all seemed worth it last night at house church when, for the first time, we were able to follow the words of a song in Thai! Sam’s accent is becoming more and more obscure as he makes himself easily understood by classmates. Sometimes he forgets to change back to his normal accent at home which gives us a good giggle but also encourages us that he is like a sponge for language learning!
Elliot is struggling with the lack of personal space at the moment and missing his friends in England. Sam was the same a few months ago but has come out the other side… hopefully it will be a short-lived phase for Elliot but do please be praying that he finds deeper belonging and we support him well. Today (Sunday) the boys enjoyed going to use the facilities at their school with a kids club from the slum! Its exiting to see teachers and families from school engaging with the needs of our community because sometimes the two worlds are so polarised. The end of term is just two weeks off although both boys have full-scale productions before then; we like hearing the songs coming from the shower!
At the end of June we head off to Auckland, New Zealand, for the Urban Neighbours of Hope gathering. We are excited to see lots friends and continue to hear God speak into our shared mission to the Urban Poor. We have been blessed with the gift of a family holiday while we are there so will (stupidly?) be borrowing a camper van and going in search of snow! We’ll let you know if this turns out to be a good idea or not! Today, as temperatures reach a record breaking high in Bangkok for May, it sounds wonderful!